What is Old Orchard?

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The Old Orchard District in Webster Groves has been around for 125 years, but one thing has remained constant throughout its history: It’s been the place to support local businesses who thrive on goodwill from the community.

Following the incorporating of Webster Groves in 1896, Old Orchard was annexed in 1897 and resulted in significantly increasing the city’s size.

“Backflip” sculpture by Allen Jones. At the intersection of Lockwood Ave. and Big Bend Blvd., it signals entryway into Old Orchard. Photo by Craig Reynolds.

A quick trip to the Webster Groves Public Library yielded all sorts of information with regard to the area’s rich history.

Nerinx Hall High School used to be the home of R.J. Lockwood, who Lockwood Ave. in Old Orchard and Webster Groves is named after. It’s also said that Lockwood had an orchard on this property, likely becoming the inspiration for the name is this district.

One of Old Orchard’s biggest supporters was the prominent 19th-century St. Louis architect Edward Joy, who lived nearby. Joy owned 128 acres of land in Old Orchard. He posted an ad that promised a free train ride and lunch to anyone who wanted to visit the budding neighborhood, earning him the moniker “the Father of Old Orchard.”

Joy was listed as one of the largest property owners in St. Louis County at the time of his death. His son, Justin, would follow in his footsteps and go on to become a renowned craftsman. According to newspaper archives, the younger Joy was “practically the builder of Webster Groves.”

Over the years, Old Orchard’s streetscape experienced constant change. In the 1970s, Old Orchard was a bustling business district, with something for everybody: menswear at Leonard’s, jewelry shops, health-food stores, restaurants and a park for outdoor concerts.

In the early 2000s, storefronts consisted mainly of boutique stores, eateries and a handful of salons. Today, there’s an exciting mix of curated specialty shops, galleries, neighborhood eateries and even a year-round produce stand.

Over the course of this week, we hope you’re encouraged to explore the vibrant district of Old Orchard as we know it today, remembering its equally rich past.

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Noah Robinett
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